Cindy Crawford Leads Fight Against PCBs in Malibu Schools

Two California schools in Malibu have been found to have overly high levels of PCBs, causing great concern to many parents including supermodel Cindy Crawford.  Having two teen-aged children who would have attended these schools, Crawford has kept her teens at home to avoid the high-levels of these cancer-causing chemicals, reports Eun Kyung Kim of Today.  PCBs are often found in older buildings.

“I look 10 years down the line. What if my kid, God forbid, had a problem?” Crawford told NBC special correspondent Maria Shriver in a segment that aired Tuesday on TODAY. “How could I live with myself, if I knew that it was a possibility, and I still sent them to school there?”

The chemicals were banned in 1979 after being found to have causal links to cancers and to immune and reproductive system damage.  The majority of PCBs are found in window caulking of older buildings, but they also have the ability of leeching into dirt, dust, and air.

“PCBs disrupt the function of hormones in our bodies, especially thyroid hormone. They can contribute to worse brain development in children, and inability of children to perform well in school,” said Dr. Leonard Trasande, a public health expert at New York University’s School of Medicine.

Of 10 Malibu schools that were tested, four came back with levels of PCB which were above the federal standards.  School district officials will have the caulking removed in these four classrooms and will conduct periodic testing of air and dust. Tests thus far, they say, have been normal.  Still, parents do not feel totally safe.  

Crawford has offered to pay to have all the caulk testing done at Malibu High School, but insists that daily testing must be done.

Trasande adds that schools need to remove PCBs from all building materials. Currently, federal law does not require that administrators test for chemicals. School officials in Malibu released a statement that, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, their schools were safe.

The EPA joined in by stating they do not recommend additional testing of caulk.  The plan laid out by the district is to address human exposure to air, dust, and soil, which, they say, are the areas of most concern.

Parents are calling for all school buildings built between the years of 1950 and the 1970s to be tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls.  Crawford, mother of Presley, 15, and Kaia, 13, said in an article by Rachel McRady in US Magazine:

“I am very frustrated and very disappointed at the way this has been handled,” Crawford continued. “The problem is that they haven’t tested the source. Unless they’re testing every day, how do I know it’s safe for my kid?”

According to the EPA, some of the sources that release PCBs into the environment are:

• Improperly maintained hazardous waste sites

• Illegal or improper dumping of PCB waste

• Leaks from electrical transformers that contain PCBs

• Some burned wastes in municipal and industrial incinerators

• Leaves, plants, and crops

• Small organisms and fish

The EPA says PCBs have been demonstrated to cause adverse health effects on the immune system, the reproductive system, the nervous system and the endocrine system.